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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Graceful giving: Bell Buckle church takes different approach to fair

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Rev. David Adams in front of Bell Buckle United Methodist Church.
(Submitted photo)
If you brave the crowds joining this weekend's Webb School Art and Craft Fair in Bell Buckle, know that there is a calm to be found in the midst of chaos.

An oasis exists right in the middle of town, a place of radical hospitality which will either confuse or delight you.

Free hospitality

For the fourth year, Bell Buckle Methodist Church on Maple Street will allow parking in their lot, the use of clean restrooms, and will serve breakfast and lunch to their guests. All for free.

It began with a 2009 message on hospitality by then-pastor Beth Ezell, and the church embraced the opportunity to demonstrate the teaching.

While gracious and generous, don't mistake the hospitality for being "southern," however.

It's 'radical'

"This is radical hospitality," said David Adams, church pastor. "It's totally contrary to the spirit of this weekend -- everyone is trying to make money -- we're just wanting to show the grace of Jesus Christ."

Church members voted then, and confirmed in a recent meeting, "We want to really be the hands and feet of Jesus."

Adams' message this week was on James 1:17, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning."

Church members will be greeting guests, setting tables and serving food all weekend. Even the youngest members of the congregation are involved. The children have written meal-appropriate prayers -- grace -- to be served at each table.

No donations

"Free prayer" at Bell Buckle United Methodist Church.
(Submitted photo)
Surrounded by the event on all sides on the third weekend of each October for the past 37 years, the tradition of hospitality has endured, with guests often making small donations of gratitude. The church accepted those, but only if offered.

One thing is different this year, "We will not and cannot take any donations whatsoever," said Adams.

"That's who Jesus was. He was so radical in how he thought and how he acted," said Adams, quoting a verse from Luke 3:11, in which John the Baptist recommended responding to needs with abundance, "Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same."

According to the pastor, visitors to the church grounds have responded to the idea of "free" with both irritation and disbelief. "We'll even pray for people for free," laughed Adams.

Hunger to serve

"The heart and spirit of this congregation is not to be normal. There is a hungering to serve -- and to serve radically -- in this church, there is a hungering to witness Christ to other people."

In the eclectic community of Bell Buckle, "We want to be different," Adams said.

Bell Buckle UMC will also hold worship services on the grounds of the church at 10:30 Sunday morning, open to the public -- and free of charge.

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